Movie Review

Film Review: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (2017): A Blockbuster With Convincing Characters & Stunning Effects

Andy Serkis War For The Planet Of The Apes

War For The Planet Of The Apes Review

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) Film Review, a movie directed by Matt Reeves, and starring Andy Serkis, Toby Kebbell, Woody Harrelson, Judy Greer, Steve Zahn, Amiah Miller, Ty Olsson, Terry Notary, Sara Canning, Max Lloyd-Jones, Aleks Paunovic, Alessandro Juliani, Karin Konoval, and Gabriel Chavarria.

Going into Matt Reeves’ War for the Planet of the Apes, I was a bit skeptical about my ability to appreciate the material. Not only have I not seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but I haven’t even seen the original Planet of the Apes films. Indeed, the only Apes movie I have seen is Tim Burton’s attempted 2001 reboot, and I was a child when I saw that. Regardless of my relative ignorance of the property, however, I found much to enjoy about the latest entry in the franchise.

It’s impossible to talk about the performances in the movie without talking about the CGI that are used to realize them. Coming a long way from the crude look of early motion capture effects like those seen in The Polar Express, the movie’s apes appear as real as anything else you see on screen. The only one who even approaches the uncanny valley is Ceasar (Andy Serkis), and even then much of this can be attributed to the fact that as a chimpanzee he resembles a human enough as it is.

Although Serkis has provided mo-cap for countless projects over the course of his career, this might be the first time we see him carry – and excel in – a film in such a role. Indeed, humans don’t appear for most of the movie, with much of the dialogue and drama occurring between Serkis and the other simians conjured by the movie’s effects. Well, perhaps dialogue is a bit of misnomer, as the apes primarily communicate in a combination of guttural sounds and sign language that is helpfully subtitled. Considering the reluctance of many viewers to watch foreign language films, it was a huge gamble on Reeve’s part to have as much of the movie communicated through this way as it did but one that paid off as the actors were able to convey the necessary emotion and pathos to make their characters believable and the drama compelling.

The only humans who get an extended amount of screen time are Nova (Amiah Miller), a little girl who is left speechless by the mutated Simian virus, and The Colonel (Woody Harrelson), a rogue military commander who has become fanatical in his efforts to wipe out the apes as well as “cleanse” the human race of its infected members. In this sense, the film is predictable in casting Harrelson as a madman, but surprising in that he plays the role surprisingly low-key, giving the character a quite menace that makes him all the more dangerous.

As a sequel, there were some call-backs to Rise that I wasn’t able to fully appreciate but they were handled in such a way that I got the gist of their significance without it detracting from the film. There’s plenty of action, but plenty of thinking to make it not just another sci-fi blockbuster. Fans of the franchise will probably get more out of it than I did, but there is still a lot for initiates to like about War for the Planet of the Apes.

Rating: 8/10

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About the author

Reggie Peralta

An aspiring writer, longtime film junkie, and former disc jockey (where I graduated with a BA in Political Science), I've made the jump from penning book reviews and current events editorials for to writing movie and TV news and reviews.

When I'm not working towards my certificate in Radio and Television/Video Production at Fullerton College, I enjoy reading (horror, science fiction, and historical/political nonfiction are particular favorites), participating in my school's TV and theatre clubs, attending movie screenings, plays, concerts, and other events, and trying to come up with pithy things to say on social media. Believe it or not, there are occasions where I find time to write for my own leisure.

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